Participants signed waiver warning of risk of ‘illness, injury and even death’ – The Irish Times

The waiver form that participants of last Sunday’s Ironman in Youghal were required to sign ahead of the race warns of a risk of “discomfort, illness, injury and even death.”

Brendan Wall (45) and Ivan Chittenden (64) both died in the swim section of the triathlon. Postmortem results are awaited to establish their exact cause of death.

Prospective participants were required to sign two forms in order to take part in the event. The waivers, seen by The Irish Times, inform participants that they “will assume full and complete risk and responsibility for any discomfort, illness, injury or accident which may occur…during the event, while you are on the premises of the event or while you are travelling to or from the event.”

Participants are also told that they “understand that participating in the event may be hazardous.”

On the issue of water conditions, the Ironman waiver forms state that racers may be subject to “high altitude or mountainous terrain, severe storms or bad weather such as lightning, strong winds, rain, hail, snow, and ice, fast moving or deep lakes, oceans or other water bodies…”

By signing the documents, Ironman participants waived their rights to make any claims against all “persons or entities associated or involved with the activities” in regard to “any injury, damage, death, lost property, stolen property, disposed property or other loss in any way connected with the risks or my enrolment or participation in the event.”

The waiver forms state that this release and indemnity policy includes “claims resulting from the ordinary negligence of released parties, whether passive or active.”

It said any possible wrongful death claims, including “claims related to emergency, medical, drug and/or health issues, response, assessment or treatment” are excluded from Ironman’s release and indemnity policy.

Meanwhile, the disparity between Ironman organisers and Triathlon Ireland’s timelines of the status of Sunday’s Youghal, Co Cork, race is “unedifying”, Simon Harris said on Wednesday.

The national body for triathlons and the organisers of the Ironman event in which two swimmers died on Sunday have clashed over the circumstances in which the Cork race started.

Speaking to reporters, the Minister for Further and Higher Education said the thoughts of people across the country are with the family and friends of the men who died in the “horrifically sad tragedy”.

Mr Harris said: “I think being very honest, I think some of the disagreement around facts has been unedifying to put it mildly.”

“It’s really important the truth is established and there can only, obviously, be one set of facts,” Mr Harris said. “My colleague Minister Thomas Byrne has been pretty clear in relation to Sport Ireland now having the space and the opportunity to help try and ascertain some of those facts.

“And I’m also very conscious that the gardaí will be preparing a file for the coroner too, so there’ll be a number of processes that are under way.”

He added: “I do think it is really important that the truth emerges, it’s really important that we move beyond statements and counter-statements and different versions and that the facts that are established.”

Locals in Youghal, Co Cork plan to hold a silent candlelight vigil as a show of support to the families of Mr Wall and Mr Chittenden.

Members of the public are invited to bring a candle or torch to the vigil, which will take place on Thursday at 7pm at Green Park.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Green Party TD said it was worrying there were two conflicting accounts from Triathlon Ireland and Ironman organisers.

Waterford deputy Mark Ó Cathasaigh, who has completed two Ironman events and helped to organise triathlons, said when he was a triathlon organiser a race would not have proceeded if the race referee did not sanction it.

“I would have been led … by the race referee and making a decision as the organiser of events you’re conscious of all those athletes who are lined up, who have paid their money, who are there to do a race.

“The reason you have an independent referee in that situation is they’re not invested in that race in that way,” Mr Ó Cathasaigh said on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. “We absolutely need to get to the bottom of this kind of ‘he said, she said’ about when exactly Triathlon Ireland communicated that decision not to sanction the event.”

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said Garda preparation of a file for the Cork city coroner was an appropriate first step. The “heat” needed to be taken out of the situation, he said.

The TD said there were very few athletes who would not have entered the water in Youghal last Sunday. Athletes would have trained for more than a year with many travelling great distances to participate, and that was why the role of officials in Triathlon Ireland and within the Ironman event had to make decisions in the interest of athlete safety, he said.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, speaking earlier on Newstalk Breakfast, said it was important to find out what had happened.

I know my constituency colleague [Minister of State for Sport] Thomas Byrne has asked Sports Ireland to engage with Triathlon Ireland to provide whatever assistance is necessary. But I also know that the gardaí are preparing a file for the Cork city coroner, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to say much more other than I think for the families, for their own communities, it is so important that we get to the bottom of what happened here and that it never happens again.”

As the Opposition pressed for an independent inquiry into the deaths, the sharp divisions emerged between national governing body Triathlon Ireland and the US-owned Ironman group over the status of the race which began in rough seas at Youghal on Sunday.

National governing body Triathlon Ireland (TI) on Tuesday night said its decision not to sanction the race because of safety issues was communicated to Ironman before the race began. That statement contradicted Ironman’s assertion that it was informed of the Triathlon Ireland decision not to sanction the race only hours after the swim finished.

The official sanction for a triathlon is a form of governing body permit for the race. According to Triathlon Ireland’s website, the insurance scheme for its members does not cover competitors in a race without such a sanction.

There was no Ironman reply to questions about the insurance status of the Youghal race, in which there were more than 2,000 competitors.

In its Tuesday statement, Ironman said it works with national federations “around the world” to organise more than 150 races annually. “As such, federation representatives were present during the event and performed their duties,” Ironman said, referring to Triathlon Ireland.

“Several hours after the swim was completed, they communicated to the on-site Ironman Ireland officials that they would not approve the sanctioning for the event.”

Triathlon Ireland disputed that account. “For the Ironman Cork event, in line with normal practice, Triathlon Ireland technical officials attended before the start of the race to review the conditions and carry out a water safety assessment,” the body said.

“Due to adverse conditions on the day, before the start of the race Triathlon Ireland technical officials confirmed to the race organisers that it was not possible to sanction the race.”

Athletes have complained of “horrendous” conditions during the sea swim part of the event.

Other event participants said on Sunday they felt the event had been organised well and with due diligence to safety.

The Ironman Group said that, due to the prevailing weather conditions, a decision was made to shorten the distance of the swim element of the full-Ironman to ensure that water safety supports – such as kayaks, lifeguards and medical boats – could be concentrated over a smaller area while also allowing swimmers the ability to swim with the help of a more favourable current and incoming tide after the first 100m.

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